Seeking approval makes you a slave to others. If you do things with external validation in mind, your essence is diluted. Let me explain…
If you set out to do something purely because YOU want it, that endeavour is the essence of you. Ideally, your goals are in line with your values (such as adventure, freedom, caring for others, being competent, being independent etc) and this combination facilitates fulfillment and contentment. When our goals are influenced by seeking approval from others, we end up sidelining what we want in favour of validation from others. Validation from others is something we all seek from time to time as we are social creatures and want to fit in. It’s part of our survival toolkit. The problems emerge however, when we forget to establish clear boundaries and we become confused about what we actually want and what we think we should want.
The double-edged sword of seeking approval
I have been a counsellor for nearly twenty years. Despite being successful I felt I needed to complete a further post-graduate qualification in order to be fully accepted in the mental health counseling field in the UK. One one hand, I needed this because once you become accredited (by doing certain recognised courses), you become part of the established ‘club’ of counsellors. You have a qualification that other professionals in the mental health profession recognise. The public don’t have a clue about all the letters behind your name nor would they know about all the various organisations through which accreditation takes place.
Looking back, I was seeking approval from my peers. I already had a Bachelor of Arts degree with two majors in Psychology and Sociology as well as considerable experience behind me. I found that seeking this approval was a double-edged sword – I wanted the approval but I actually don’t think I am any better as a counsellor as a result. In some ways, I think I may be worse. Before gaining my post-graduate qualification, I related well to clients but now, I feel pressure to use interventions more often and I guess, at times, perhaps the therapy sessions may seem more clinical.
Many therapists suffer from self-doubt as it is an inexact science. When a client presents with an issue, say depression, there is a standard way of dealing with this (slowly get the client to increase their activity levels and focus more on behaviour than their thinking) but there are many different ways to deal with that client outside of that core approach. It’s important to establish rapport, to get the pacing right and to fully understand the current level of depression before proceeding.
Every client is different and if you tried to approach every client with the exact same format, you would make a lousy therapist. Instead of acknowledging that I was successful in my own right, I mistakenly felt that the external validation would cure me of self-doubt. It didn’t.
The disadvantages of seeking external validation
Seeking external validation stops people from following their dreams. Other people get it wrong – if you believe in yourself then keep going. If only a handful of people have told you something won’t work, trust your gut and carry on. I am writing a book and i really believe in the concept yet I haven’t had the favourable response I was hoping for when I tentatively shared it with a few random people. I considered shelving the project but decided that I want to keep going with it. Seeking external validation or approval too soon can quash many great ideas. Get the opinions of others by all means but weight up the information before taking the next step. Sometimes, others don’t always know best.
Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and nurture unswerving self-belief. This is tough in a word of nay-sayers but it is possible. Trust yourself. Champion yourself. It’s often those who don’t give up and adopt the attitude of, “where there’s a will there’s a way” that end up getting things done and becoming successful.
When I have ignored what other people think and I have followed my own path, I have felt happy, inspired and liberated. I highly recommend it!